GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — It was May 2020 when Dan Weidenbenner consulted his fellow Mill Village Farmsboard members and they decided to move their annual fundraiser to a virtual format.
The COVID-19 pandemic was raging, and the organizers reasoned, this was a way to keep momentum for their efforts in the community while allowing people flexibility and the chance to have a dining experience within their own home.
Now, two years later, the local non-profit has found an unexpected rhythm with the virtual fundraisers, and has taken it to another level.
On April 21, Mill Village will host a Culinary Concert, it’s seventh now, in honor of Earth Day that combines local food, cooking, music, cocktails and planting, all from the comfort of your own home.
The event will weave food from chef Drew Erickson, of CAMP, cocktail instruction from local micro-distillery Vicario Spirits, music from Anya Hinkle and plants from Mill Village Farms.
“This event really encompasses our mission in the community,” said Weidenbenner, executive director of Mill Village Farms. “The mission of empowering people to be able to cook healthier foods, learn how to cook, grow their own food, control and support their own mobility, and this event kind of does that.”
It also helps Mill Village fund the work it does. Specifically, this culinary concert will benefit the organization’s youth program and its food security program, the need for both of which has grown over the past two years.
Since April 2018, Mill Village has distributed over 59,000 FoodShare boxes to local people in need of fresh food. The boxes, which contain 10-12 varieties of fresh produce (valued at $20-$30) are available for $15, but are available for $5 for those using EBT/SNAP benefits.
Mill Village continues to evolve. Last fall, the group launched Fresh out of the Box, a virtual cooking show that brings real-world techniques into homes via a monthly cooking demo. The show has gained loyal following, leveraging local chefs who share tips, tricks and recipe for making healthy food out of fresh produce inside the FoodShare boxes.
The show has allowed Mill Village to add one more component to its efforts – not just providing fresh, healthy food, but showing people how to prepare it in a tasty way at home.
“We thought since we’re getting this to the community, why not show them healthy ways to cook it and using items form the box and also highlighting local restaurants?” said Rhonda Rawlings, neighborhood engagement director for Mill Village Ministries.
The Culinary Concert Spring Soiree will offer a bit more of a complex cooking technique, but with just as much of a hands-on approach. The $175 ticket covers a three-course meal for two with all the ingredients prepped and ready to cook, a perfectly paired bottle of wine, mixers for cocktails, and a flat of flowers, herbs and veggie plants.
Guests will enjoy a live cooking demonstration from Erickson, mixology from Vicario’s Fernando Forero along with a live concert by Hinkle and planting tips from Mill Village’s Frances Schueren. They will also get to learn and see how Mill Village impacts the community.
“We did this during Earth Week because that’s celebrating sustainability in our community,” Weidenbenner said. “It’s not only about environmental sustainability but about economic sustainability too, that we are doing through Mill Village.”
The Mill Village Farms virtual Culinary Concert will take place 6:30 p.m., April 21. For more information or for tickets, visit https://www.millvillagefarms.org/
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